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Victor Wembanyama will finally play an NBA game. Here’s what to expect at the Summer League

LAS VEGAS — It’s certainly not the main event for Victor Wembanyama, but his Friday night Summer League debut feels like a beginning of sorts.

It’s already been enough of a whirlwind for the No. 1 pick, with a member of the San Antonio Spurs security team mistaking pop star Britney Spears for some non-famous, attention-seeking fan, knocking her back when she dared to touch the hem of his cloak. Whether it’s the NBA or the notoriously protective Spurs organization issuing the decree, it’ll be difficult to make a quick move on the newest big man to enter the league.

Even if you’re someone who’s sold 100 million records worldwide. The directives were clear from security: We stop for no one, otherwise a crowd will not be far behind. Being 7-foot-4 means there’s no anonymity, even in event-filled Las Vegas. There’s no blending in among the crowd, something Wembanyama hasn’t had much practice doing anyways.

“There was one person who was calling me,” Wembanyama told reporters Thursday afternoon. “So that person grabbed me from behind. I didn’t see what happened because I didn’t stop. She grabbed me from behind, but security pushed her away. I kept walking and enjoyed a nice dinner.”

He had no idea it was Spears, only realizing it when he woke up to a bunch of text messages after the occasion was caught by TMZ.

Wembanyama has been Americanized before ever scoring a bucket on United States soil.

Victor Wembanyama will make his San Antonio Spurs debut on Friday at the Summer League in Las Vegas.  (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Victor Wembanyama will make his San Antonio Spurs debut on Friday at the Summer League in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Friday night’s Summer League opener featuring Wembanyama has been sold out for a while now, the fifth such instance in NBA history. It’s the second time there’s been a sellout in advance of gameday, and the first time a first day’s Summer League session has been sold out.

The other instance: when Zion Williamson made his debut in 2019 after being drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans.

On that day, Williamson wrestled a ball away from Knicks forward Kevin Knox and threw home a thunderous two-handed dunk minutes into the contest.

Minutes later, there was an actual Las Vegas earthquake, halting play.

It seems like we’re closer to another earthquake than some tangible Williamson impact, which is precisely what the league is hoping won’t happen — Williamson being in the tabloids, rumor mill and Twitter streets more than on the floor.

Perhaps that’s why a wall was being built around Wembanyama, because the NBA’s next big thing can’t afford to be distracted.

There’s a bevy of young stars capable of helping carry the league, but this one is a little different. He’s been groomed not only by his international team but tacitly by the NBA, which has been preparing for his arrival like a kid on Christmas Day.

Even with LeBron James, a career most observers can recall from the beginning when he displayed a keen sense of unselfishness and otherworldly athleticism from his first game against Sacramento in 2003, there’s not much recollection of his Summer League performances.

It wasn’t in Las Vegas, and although he’s been a spectacle, it wasn’t a spectacle.

That shows how much the league has changed, even though most would consider the time James has spent in the NBA to be modern.

This whole thing is spectacle, and some would argue, excess. Wembanyama is scheduled to appear at NBA Con — an event that’s sure to become an annual thing this time of year — and speak with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in front of the crowd.

NBA Con aims to merge its culture with fashion, music, art and of course, basketball with its diverse set of fans. Consider it a festival in the busiest place in the Pacific Time Zone, and Wembanyama will be right in the middle of it.

He’s not being completely thrown into the deep end, but they’re not babying him either.

As much as the league would have loved for him to be in a marquee market, it doesn’t mind him being in the incubator of the Spurs system. The picture of Wembanyama surrounded by Spurs royalty — Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Manu Ginóbili and Sean Elliott went viral last week.

The word “viral” next to “San Antonio Spurs” has never been part of the lexicon, but that’s the power of this soon-to-be-star.

There’s not so much a worry about him being influenced by the wrong folks or getting caught up in nonsense that has nothing to do with his almost-ordained growth.

That growth, we’ll likely get a small glimpse of Friday. Barring injury, one expects he’ll play a few minutes and give just a morsel of what’s to come.

Of course, being out there with league hopefuls and fellow draftees means he’ll have a target on his back — catching a Victor body would be a nice poster on the wall for even a player destined for G League status.

Wembanyama will be tested physically, players who’ve only seen him play on Twitter clips but have been inundated with the hype will want to see if it’s real.

His skill.

His strength.

And for some unlikely poor sap, someone will believe they have a free lane to the basket because Wembanyama will be on the weak side of the floor, nowhere within reasonable reach.

And a layup will be swatted, sending the sellout crowd into a frenzy.

And it’s likely at that very moment, Gregg Popovich will order the Code Red, like then-Lakers President Magic Johnson did in 2017 when he signaled “that’s enough” for Lonzo Ball after a small look.

It’ll be enough, for the onlookers, for the NBA and for ESPN, who’ll likely run those plays on an endless loop during a light time on the sports calendar.

That’s all Wembanyama is in Vegas to do: Shake hands, kiss babies and whet the appetite of an audience clamoring to see that he’s certified as the next bankable star.

And make sure no other stars dare get close.